Tag Archives: discipline of writing

My Writing Desk

My Writing Desk

Hi, all! I’m happy to report that I’m back at my writing desk. I decided to leave my in-house publishing position at the end of December to free up time for writing. So far, I’m loving it.

I have a huge grin on my face.

I’m sitting here in the sunshine with a view of the park across the street, my dog is snoozing beside me, and I have a list of projects to work on. My first assignments are writing some literacy program books for an overseas publisher. Bliss.


Well, I have a few ideas. In the meantime, I have to consider if I should write another nonfiction biography book or if I should knuckle down and attempt fiction. I’ve been dabbling, but I keep telling myself to get serious. I have some good support, too. My editor for Phenomenal Female Entrepreneurs says I should go for it. But, but, but … plot, character, suspense, point of view. It’s still scary.

I wish you a very happy 2015. May you follow your passions and meet your challenges head on,

with a big smile.
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Work-Life Balance

Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance. Have you got it? Do you want it? Adrienne Montgomerie, an accomplished editor and member of Dameditors, posted a comment about what she calls “work-work-life balance.” She made a point of  stating that this was not a typo. I felt compelled to weigh in. After all, three of the ten women profiled in Phenomenal Female Entrepreneurs refute the work-life balance paradigm. During my phone interview with the dynamic and highly successful Sue Chen, CEO of Nova Medical Products in California, Sue admitted that at one point she searched online at Amazon.com for books about work-life balance. Sue was amazed at the results that she said numbered in the high thousands. (I tried and came up with 13,755 books.) Sue explained this hefty number saying, “No one’s figured out you just can’t do it!” So, is work-life balance an unachievable — indeed impossible — ideal? In Sue’s case, her response is, “just throw that out the window! Don’t try to achieve this work-life balance.” Instead, Sue Chen happily immerses herself in a chaotic stream of day-to-day duties. Life is always busy, her office is often messy, but tasks get completed and business is thriving. Somehow, amidst the chaos that she willingly embraces, Sue always looks glamorous and pulled together. She even squeezes in regular pedicures and lunch dates with friends.  In fact, when I spoke with her she was looking forward to lunch with O.P.I.’s Suzi Weiss-Fischmann. Hmmm, a lunch date with a friend? Regular pedicures? I think I detect some luscious “life” creeping into her work-centred existence. That’s a good thing, of course.

Award-winning businessperson Kelsey Ramsden (CEO of Belvedere Place Development and founder of SparkPlay) acknowledges and appreciates the personal sacrifices working parents often make. About the notion that some successful women — namely entrepreneurial mothers — have it all, Kelsey says “that doesn’t exist! It’s a pipe dream.” Like Sue Chen, Kelsey says she’s “satisfied and happy with both parts of her life, but they’re never balanced. In any given moment, one requires more attention than the other.” OK, that makes sense to me.

In a video for the Makers series (produced by PBS and AOL), Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook is famously quoted saying: “So there’s no such thing as work-life balance. There’s work, and there’s life, and there’s no balance.” I love that. Sheryl has a knack for delivering wonderfully pithy, high-impact comments. It’s no wonder her words resonate with many women. Indeed, we all look to leaders, high-profile executives, and daring entrepreneurs — our role models — for guidance on how to make it all work. We want to have our cake and eat it too, but something’s gotta give.

I don’t work 60-hour weeks, but, even so, I find life gets awfully busy. I thrive off the state of being busy, however, and try to carve out personal and family time. When the going gets tough, I listen to music and take lots of hot baths. My house gets messy, papers pile up, and laundry begs to be sorted; but three times a week — rain or shine, tired or energetic, in the face of a looming deadline or not — I walk to the pool for a swim workout. I swear that the lure of the water, and this well-established routine, helps keep me sane and makes me more productive. Sometimes I focus on my stroke; other times, however, I let my mind wander and “write” in my head. How could I better express that paragraph I was wrestling with today? What am I really trying to say? How can I best connect with my readers on this issue? It’s so satisfying to have those “aha” moments in the pool, while out walking, or during life-enforced “breaks.” I understand the value of breaks. They refresh and invigorate. They restore.

It often feels like every day is a push-pull between work and life. Most days, it feels like work is winning and Adrienne Montgomerie’s “work-work-life balance” rings true. If you are passionate about your work then this isn’t so terrible. Exercise some patience. Then, on another day, in another moment, a lovely shift takes place. “Life” is the focus in all its splendour, its ups and downs, its strong emotions, its heightened “moments of being.” At that point, work slides silently into the background and life pushes to the fore. Life-LIFE balance takes over. “Live in the moment.” “Seize the day.” (Carpe diem.) We all need to eke out some peace in our busy lives. Out of those peaceful moments come great ideas.

Bee Sunflower

Sunflower and Bee Photograph by Zoe
[Banner photo showing the underside of a hosta also by Zoe]


Phenomenal Female Entrepreneurs (Second Story Press) will be published in early fall 2013. It is written for children ages 9 to 13.

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8 Steps to Creating a Kids’ Nonfiction Book

8 Steps to Creating a Kids’ Nonfiction Book

I love it when I have two whole weeks to focus on writing, which has been the case since my last post—yay! I’m collaborating with another Kingston, Ontario writer, and we’ve been working (slowly) on a children’s book project for nearly a year, on and off. Together, we are infusing new life into an old manuscript, making it accessible, engaging, and lively for today’s awesome kids. OK, yeah, I know you want to know what the book is, but I can’t say just yet. Mum’s the word! (The above, slightly skewed, pic of my Backyard Circus proposal is an example of a winning proposal, but this isn’t what I’m currently sweating over.) Suffice it to say, having a block of two weeks to focus on this project has been downright glorious.

The early stages of writing a book and securing a contract are super-duper time-consuming. Until the idea really takes hold of me, I can be lured away by other work and responsibilities (uh oh)—and fun stuff like emailing friends and walking my dog. But I’ve come to learn that when I unexpectedly land some treasured downtime from my editorial work, I need to be disciplined and continue working full days. This is a challenge because, at this stage, there are no real deadlines. It’s smart to make up your own deadlines, however, to keep the project on track.

Writing time is precious. It has to be reasonably quiet (i.e., no jackhammers) and can’t have any distractions from family members  (“Mom, can I have a playdate tomorrow?”). In fact, it usually means acting like a hermit, forgetting to have lunch until it’s late, covering my desk in loose papers and stacked of books, and obsessing over digging up the smallest details. But in a collaboration with another writer, I actually get to leave the house. Whoo-hoo! It’s pretty cool to discuss concerns and brainstorm brilliant solutions with someone who shares the same passion for the book and topic. And, I often get to have cookies and tea!

In short, these are the first eight steps that I follow in creating a nonfiction book.

1. Think of a great idea.

2. Create an outline and a table of contents.

3. Make “thumbnail” sketches showing what content will appear on each page.

4. Research.

5. Conduct market research to determine whether or not there is a need for this book. (Will it sell? If not, go back to step 1.)

6. Write some sample pages.

7. Polish the sample pages.

8. Examine publishers’ lists and think about which publishing house might want to publish it.

 Now, clearly, this leaves out a lot of nitty-gritty details–sorry about that! If you want more information about particular steps, I’d love to hear from you. Perhaps I could write about various stages another time (note to self). Once these eight steps are complete, it’s time to put together an eye-catching, interesting, and market-savvy proposal to send out to publishers. You can read more on that in my next blog.

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